Cartels and pickleball in Mexico – The Willits News
Noise is everywhere in Mexico: music (guitars and drums, Banda), roadworks, trucks braking and screaming, guys screaming in the street, car speakers, chihuahuas screaming, fans roar and paddles ringing Pickleballs against those yellow, punched, wiffing balls. But, never a shootout between cartels.
Well, hardly ever, except in December 2020, in Los Reyes, Tocumba-Michoacan. Yes, there are highly organized crime syndicates in Mexico. But, it’s very quiet here unless you listen to taxi drivers, car rental agents, young lawyers, family members talking about Mexican mafiosos. Among this working class, there are fears that the cartels threaten their security. Official documents are only known to the government, church or cartel (s). Cartels exist to carve up territory in order to control drugs or any other high-value product. The largest is the Sinaloa Cartel, made famous by El Chapo Guzman. But, others are at work like Jalisco New Generation Cartel and La Familia Michoacana.
Outsiders (Gringos) are immune to the effects of Cartels, unless they cross the rubicon of dabbling in one of their preferred income streams. As Roverto tells Talaquepaque, “the cartels are very careful not to disturb tourists.”
So, I ventured out of my Covid consciousness into Jalisco and Michoacan, to find calm among the people regarding corrupt intrusions. However, the common people strictly follow the rules due to fear of the police, which many associate with a cartel association or rogue activity. They are loath to be arrested for any offense.
As an old white man catching second class buses and a cab in Morelia or Uruapan in Michoacan, I blithely found the easy jokes with the locals refreshing and informative. I’ve been treated to the ricest coffee blends, the freshest bananas, the highest prices in three regions, and the bargains I didn’t look for.
“Hey, Gringo” greeted me as I turned from Melchor Ocampo Street to Guillermo Prieto Street in Morelia, the capital of Michoacan. We were in front of a clinic where vaccinations were administered and a group of people were watching me. Leo Mendez was a 40-year-old sage born in Sahuayo, Michoacan, just kicked out of Los Angeles, California for a 1993 DUI.
“I walked in last night, took a bus here, and spent the night on this park bench.” Leo pointed to a nice shaded wooden area near the cathedral. “I have to go to Guadalajara to get my birth certificate, so I have a country… only 600 pesos ($ 30) for the bus. His story of bad luck included being released from the military after catching a shell near his spine during the Iraq War. “Yes, I love these American girls, I was married and had two children in El Norte.
I swallowed up his somewhat unstable story because of his energy; I needed to catch some mojo to continue my journey on my own through this state so dreaded by many Americans.
As we made our way downtown, he recounted his story of moving from Mexico to Chicago and then to Los Angeles at the age of 3. “Yeah, I went to Huntington Park HS (which is a few miles from my own hometown).” I gave him two 200 peso bills.
Emboldened, Leo spotted Gringos sitting for coffee and breakfast at the City Express hotel where I spent the night. “Hey, Gringo, how’s your Spanish?” Where are you from? ”He would throw as he passed the tables. We decided to take a cheap collectivo down the next street towards the bus station to arrange transportation. His only motivation was to collect an extra 200 pesos for a ticket out of town Mine was an adventure (without Leo M).
As we stood in line at the centro de autobuses to grab a ticket to Patzcuoro, he continued his story nonstop. He repeated (his memory was equivalent to my eldest slip) that he just needed 600 pesos to get to Guad to collect his birth certificate. “I have to go to Sahuayo to take pictures of my parents’ grave to prove to my brother and sister that I am really well. Obviously, his parents’ vehicle was run over by a truck traveling to see Leo in prison in Arizona; “And the family blames me for their deaths.” A reasonable story. And the Mexican birth certificate would allow her to live in Mexico for 5 years without any hassle. (awaiting his 5-year ban from the United States). I paid an additional 200 pesos.
En route to Patzcuoro to venture to the lake, but Herman the taxi driver said the prices here in town were cheaper for native clothes. He helped me land in a colonial masterpiece, the Mision San Manuel in one of the plazas. Great lobby in this old classic structure, charming clerk and spacious room. The plumbing was far from easy, but I mostly hung out in the plazas: watching the native dances of the Perapecha Indians, the drills of the local police squads, and negotiating with the food and fabric vendors.
It was Bishop Quiracoga who saved the Perapecha Indians from the Spaniards in the 1500s and created his idea of a perfect society by teaching the Indians around Lake Patzcuaro different trades to trade between themselves and visitors. The art of ceremonial masks was bestowed on the small village of Tocuaro. Manuel Castillo, son of Juan Orta Castillo (1940 – 2006), has won the prestigious National Mask Maker award several times. The masks appear to be older expressive deities and bloody mythological figures. Indians today dance in the main square of Patzcuoro wearing the masks and meandering among the crowds gathered for pesos and food. Their appeal rivals the food, treasures, and crafts sold on the streets.
Hills covered with avocado orchards for miles greeted me near Uruapan as I now tried to connect with a friend from Anderson Valley. It is the avocado farming capital of the world, and I was able to spend a full day with Fidel, Cuca and their family in their vast ranches of berries (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries) and avocados. And return home around Lake Chapala to the familiar terrain of Jocotepec, San Juan Cosala, Ajijic, San Antonio, La Ribera, and Chapala several days later.
Later in mid-April, while on vacation in the Lake Chapala area, I couldn’t resist drifting off to the charming Monte Carlo Hotel, owned by the University of Guadalajara, overlooking the lake with peacocks giving their best “human-freak-out” howls …. more noise. There are six designated well-kept multi-colored pickle courts near the palm trees and pools, where a chic torneo (tournament) was underway. The lake’s population is approximately 51,000, and there is no real pickle court in Mendocino County – 90,000.
The courts are paid for by the hotel and the game fees: walk-in (8-12 noon) – $ 6; and pm – $ 3. Tournament fees and profits are banked to enable staff professionals to travel to regional tournaments (Manzanillo, Puerto Vallarta), United States.
Usually where the Gringoes (Canadians, Americans) congregate across the world, pickleball is booming; and here was pro, Carlos Castro promoting and facilitating the ongoing Chapala tournament with over 40 players. His pitch was familiar: improve your game, have fun, and meet others. Except here the gamers were scattered from 18 to 60. Most of the time, retirees, hobbies are generally drawn to noisy activity where silly shots and self-laughing are the norm.
But Carlos’ staff is built on youth and athleticism. The Renteria boys (Jaico, 20, Victor, 22, Mikie-18) along with Uriel Mendosa-21 and Castro 41 team up with trainer Sam Ricono-55 to provide a lot of encouragement and energy. The game is mainly adopted by the young people of Chapala.
Results: Open doubles (pros, 5.0+) men Champions-Aldo, Lleno- Los Barriles- Baja Sur
Second – Mikie, Juido- Chapala-Jalisco
Third – Rafa-Tijuana, Jesse-Chicago, Ill.
Open Mixed Doubles Champions – Alan, Yeni – San Carlos – Sonora
Second- Manuel, Samie- Los Barriles- BCS
Third – Omar, Clarice-San Carlos- Sonora
Advanced-4.5 + female champion – Mariana, Relaino- San Cristobal, Son.
Second-Yeni, Clarice, San Carlos, Sonora
Third – Karen, Karen, Chapala- Jalisco
Male champion – Victor, Uriel – Chapala
Second-Manuel, – Los Barriles-Baja C, Sur
Third- Mikie, Juido- Chapala- Jalisco
Intermediate – 4.0-4.5 Male Champion – Jess, Kevin – Los Barilles, BCS
Second- Manuel, Hugo- Barra de Navidad, Jalisco
Third- Graham, Paul- Barra de Navidad, Jalisco
There were also participants from other parts of the Lake Chapala (Ajicic) area and California; none of them were placed in the tournament. The level (s) of play was okay, but maybe the grades were bloated and maybe the record keeping was poor. There were a few Gringo spectators and no final judges. Without a doubt, the Open Play and the venue were of a high standard. It appears to be an annual event for all concerned in Mendocino, Sonoma County. Flights are RT from Sacto / SF to Guadalajara – $ 300; Air B – and hotels – from $ 23 / night to $ 85 / night. Transportation – buses, taxis and entertainment – great food, Mexican music, the culture is memorable.